Week 12 (Chicago Week 10)

List of this week's vegetables

  • Augustus sweet corn
  • Bright lights chard
  • 5 pounds of heirloom tomatoes
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Broccoli
  • Melons
  • Cucumbers
  • Beauty heart radishes or dragon tongue beans
  • Patty pan
  • Eggplants
  • Bell peppers
  • Red roasters
  • Lunch box peppers

A food and farm system we can feel for

At times in fatigue, I kneel in the cool green grass round our farmhouse porch. I roll over on my back as I did a child of 4 and 5. I look up first at sheets, blouses, or shirts billowing on the clothesline, then higher to the lovely blue sky.

I recall the feel of my young back, molded against the earth. I picture as I was, a child in the 1950s, staring up at my parents’ clothesline and passing clouds. Like a tiny outcropping of rock, fixed to the planet, I felt myself turning in our atmosphere. I felt myself a part of a landscape, a yard, a home.

In my childhood fantasy, each cloud resembled animals I saw on farms my father visited or worked for food. The heavenly creatures were always smiling, as did once a certain kind farmer, who greeted us at the screen door of another farmhouse porch in my past.

Something inside me longs to travel far away and find that farmer’s relation, to tell someone connected to him of his unselfish acts. I long to tell them I still remember him, that what he did for my dad, for us, spurred me as an adult to seek justice for all like-minded farming people.

Yet when I think of this, I fear what I might find, as much as I long to make the quest. The last time I looked at that state’s farming statistics, they had laid to rest more than 85,000 family farms since my youth. The kind farmers I recall are long gone, their farm buildings likely gone, too, bulldozed, covered up, the land consolidated with other tracts, all planted to gigantic expanses of corn and beans.

As I delivered your vegetables this past week, I felt the loneliness all small family farmers today must feel, traveling paved highways into cities. In vehicles (whether the pickup truck for Madison and Milwaukee, or the Prius for Chicago) laden with mid-summer’s bounty, I held my speed to the best gas mileage.

I felt streams of inpatient commuters passing, wishing me out of their way. I comforted myself, somehow, with thought of the vegetables crowded in around me. I pictured where each was planted, tended, harvested, readied for delivery.

Did any of the tens of thousands streaming round my vehicles this past week spy curiously my strange cargo? Tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, summer squash – in brown paper grocery bags and boxes, going for a ride somewhere down the highway.

Could any urban or suburban motorist understand the affection I have for these vegetable plants we grow, for the land and its gifts, for the miracles of Nature that make it all possible?

All that is healthy and healthful comes from this soil, this seed, this activity in which each of us engages to make organic production and consumption possible. It is the Earth’s perpetual legacy to us, with our legacy to Earth’s children.

We’ve a right, of course, to do what’s right. We’ve a right to be where we are, to engage in stewardship, to endeavor together to revive sustainable systems. We’re of this world turning beneath us, needing us to feel love for it. We are not planets of our own making.